Custom Foot Orthotics

One of our areas of specialty, custom foot orthotics, is often the next step for people in pain following accident, injury, or even the kinds of overrunning common to many long-distance runners. There are many routine treatments for foot problems, from anti-inflammatory pills to cortisone injections, to a million different pads, cushions, ointments and, of course, surgery. All of these have temporary, pain-relieving effects. But, if you want the chance to permanently solve the problem, you must change the way your feet function on the ground. And the only way to do that is to use a true custom, biomechanical orthotic: Sole Supports. Together with our outside lab partner, we use state-of-the-art technology to create custom foot supports for people suffering from conditions such as:

First step in the morning heel pain.

What is it?
Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced plan-tar fash-ee-eye-tis) is a common cause of heel and foot pain in adults. “Plantar” means the bottom of the foot; “fascia” is a type of connective tissue, and “itis” means “inflammation”.

The classic symptoms of plantar fasciitis include heel pain that is usually most severe first thing in the morning. This condition is characterized by inflammation at the insertion point of the plantar fascia on the heel bone. Plantar fascia is a layer of tough fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and supports your arch. This is one of the longest and strongest ligaments in the body.

As the plantar fascia pulls on the heel, your body will respond by laying down more bone in the area. This can be seen on an x-ray and is known as a heel spur.

How is it treated?
There are two main concepts in the treatment of plantar fasciitis: 1) the decrease of inflammation and 2) addressing the cause of the condition.

Stretching and exercise: Increasing the length of the calf muscles is a very important part of any treatment. Tightness in this muscle group can force excess pronation (arch drop), which may contribute to plantar fasciitis because a falling arch spreads the fascia and increases tension on the heel. Other stretching exercises are aimed at lengthening the plantar fascia in an attempt to reduce the pull on your heel, like adding slack to the rope that is yanking on your heel.

Foot orthotics: The right custom orthotics are often the best defense in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and the most reliable long-term cure for existing conditions. A Sole Supports™ orthotic, unlike typical custom orthotics, is designed to completely support the corrected arch of your foot, determined by a unique way of capturing your optimal foot position. A restored arch significantly reduces the daily pull on the plantar fascia by relaxing the ‘bowstring” function of the fascia. It is the only practical way to address both the symptoms AND the cause of your problem.

How long will it take to heal?
If left alone, plantar fasciitis can take from 6 to 18 months to heal. This can be frustrating, interfere with your ability to work and other activities, and the problem can come back. With Sole Supports™ foot orthotics, you expect either a dramatic loss of pain within the first weeks of use or a more gradual reduction of symptoms, depending on how long the problem has existed, normal body weight or how well you follow other therapeutic regimens prescribed by your provider.

Feet get flatter over time - gravity, weight and hard floors beat the arches down
It is common to say that so and so “has flat feet”, but to say it that way implies that he or she has always or will always have the same flat feet. The assumption is that feet have a static posture that never changes and that you either have flat feet or you don’t.

The truth is that our feet and our entire bodies are always changing: if we eat too much we get fat; if we don’t exercise we get weak; ageing changes everything; and gravity, body weight and the hard surfaces of modern living beat down our arches over time.

The 26 bones that give our feet structure depend on semi-elastic bands of connective tissue called ligaments to keep them together and nested against each other. Ligaments are very good at resisting short-term, forceful stretches but are susceptible to long-term stretches that make them longer and looser (like prolonged standing on hard floors). As the ligaments get looser, they can’t hold the bones together like they used to, so the arches and general structure of the foot slumps.

As the structure slumps closer to flat on the floor, foot function becomes abnormal. The foot will feel more fatigued in the early stages, then develop pain and/or deformities as the altered function causes progressive tissue damage.

Some people are born with loose ligaments and have flat feet as a child. Many people will have good arch structure as a child but will stretch out their ligaments as time goes on. Either way, your feet need good structure (posture) and function to stay healthy. Sole Supports™ were designed to give feet back their missing structure and to prevent any future loss of structure.

Time, in general, is not your body’s friend. But timely use of a pair of custom Sole Supports can beat time at it’s own game.

How to beat a joint into the ground

What is it?
Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a gradual and debilitating breakdown of the body’s joints due to routine wear and tear, overuse and mechanical abuse. The big toe is a key joint in the foot which, because of the high repetitive forces that pass through it with all weight-bearing activities, is unusually susceptible to arthritis in middle age and older adults.

Arthritis features a number of negative changes to joint tissues and function. The most important change is the thinning and eventual disappearance of joint cartilage. Cartilage is the smooth, lubricated surface at the ends of the bones in all normal joints that is responsible for normal function. It allows the joint to move smoothly with minimal friction and is capable of handling large compressive forces without pain or damage to the joint. It has no nerve endings so even heavy loads are not usually painful. When a joint is subject to routine, abnormal wear and tear or unusual mechanical strain, the cartilage may be worn thin or obliterated completely. The cartilage develops cracks or fissures, loses its lubrication and the cells gradually die. The involved joint becomes swollen and painful; excess bone frequently develops along the joint margins (called “lipping”) as a response to the abnormal trauma and tends to progressively limit joint range of motion as the arthritis advances.

How did I get it?
The big toe is designed to take the majority of stress as the forefoot loads and we propel ourselves forward with each step. When the main arch of the foot flattens (flat feet), though, the big toe function becomes limited by abnormal ligament restraint. The toe cannot raise upwards when the forefoot is loaded but the forward motion of the foot occurs anyway, forcing the joint into a position it cannot assume freely.

This forcing of the big toe motion is abnormally stressful to the joint. Over time, the joint begins to show the negative changes of arthritis described above, The base of the big toe becomes thicker, begins to swell especially after prolonged weight-bearing activities, and gets progressively stiffer and painful with age. Bad weather may elicit soreness in the joint because it promotes swelling. Besides poor foot mechanics due to flat feet (most common), arthritis of the big toe may come from a sports injury, a traumatic accident or the medical condition known as gout.

How is it treated?
Arthritis is best treated in its early stages before the joint loses most of its range of motion. As with most foot problems, there are two main concepts in treatment: 1) reduce the symptoms, and 2) address the underlying cause.

Anti-inflammatory agents: These may include ice and oral anti-inflammatory medications. These may provide some temporary relief and ease the pain of inflammation, but are not helpful in addressing the underlying cause of your condition.

Arch drop = poor spine posture

What causes it?
Back pain is the leading cause of disability for Americans under the age of 45. Studies show that 80% of adults in America will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. The causes of back pain are as varied as the types of symptoms you may experience. Symptoms can be a result of poor muscle tone, muscle tension or spasms, ligament tears, degenerative arthritis, nerve or disc problems. Low back pain can be a result of an acute injury, but many times back problems develop over a long period of time. Factors such as age, occupation, poor posture and overall fitness all play a role. The body needs a sound support structure with core strength to carry weight and perform normal activities. When this support structure is weakened, the body must work harder to keep the feet, knees, hips and low back functioning properly. Over time, this can lead to back problems.

All the joints in the lower limb are closely connected and affect one another. When the arch collapses in the foot, it triggers a series of compensations up the joint chain which creates a leg length discrepancy and alters posture all the way up. Postural imbalances can have a big effect on joint health.

Is my back pain related to my feet? In many cases, yes. Your feet are the foundation for every step you take. They play a key role in absorbing the shock that you place on your body every day. Problems with the function of your feet can have repercussions that are felt all the way up, including your knees, hips and back.

All the joints in the lower limb are closely connected and affect one another. When the arch collapses in the foot, it triggers a series of compensations up the joint chain which causes the knee and thigh to rotate inwards – leading to increased stress on the knee, pelvis and low back. You may have noticed that your low back pain is worse in different shoes, that walking in bare feet or prolonged standing makes your back hurt. This may be an indication that your feet are contributing to your back pain.

Foot orthotics: For back pain that is, at least partially, caused by poor biomechanics of the feet, good orthotic management is a treatment of choice. By restoring a normal, functional arch to the foot, the posture and alignment of the lower body can be normalized. This can greatly alleviate unnecessary stress to areas of your low back. It is a simple yet profound therapy, easily performed by just standing and walking properly, and easily combined with other kinds of treatment.

Sole Supports™ custom made orthotics is uniquely designed to directly and completely support and restore the arch of your foot. This not only helps correct low back posture, but restores proper function for prolonged, pain-free foot health that benefits the legs as well. It may be the difference between long-term success and failure in the management of your low back pain.

Putting the power back in push-off

Can a foot orthotic help my performance?
In order to understand how an orthotic can help your athletic performance, an understanding of basic foot function is necessary. Your feet are your interface with the ground and make up a complex system of bones and joints that are a major contributor to shock absorption and propulsion. The shock absorption component comes into play when your foot hits the ground, the propulsion phase occurs while you are pushing off and using your foot as a rigid lever to propel you forward. These are two very different functions with different biomechanical requirements. During the shock absorption phase, your foot must be relatively pliable and mobile. During the propulsion phase, your foot must regain structural integrity or stiffness for mechanical efficiency. This is a beautiful system design but even small inefficiencies in this system can produce detrimental effects on performance including injury and poor propulsion. Conversely, even small improvements in this system can have a positive effect on performance measurements such as speed, power and balance.

What your foot needs
A foot orthotic needs to provide a rigid lever for propulsion while allowing for shock absorption and terrain adaptation. This need is only magnified in athletes. Whether you are on a bike, in running shoes, or in ski boots, your foot is always working on shock absorption and propulsion. To assist in these functions a foot orthotic needs to be properly calibrated to your weight, foot flexibility and activity level. Different athletes and sports require different orthotic sizes and properties, but all require the same biomechanical control and function. Currently, the Sole Supports™ foot orthotic is the only one on the market that addresses these needs. They are based on a completely new and unique model of correction and orthotic design.

I’m not injured, do I need a foot orthotic?
This depends on how you would like to approach your training. Would you like to only worry about injuries after they happen, or after they cause a reduction in training? Or would you like to have a more proactive mindset when it comes to your health and performance? In addition to all of the overuse injuries we are familiar with such as shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome and patellar tracking dysfunction, inefficiencies in foot function. It makes more sense to correct these problems before they have a chance to cause tissue breakdown and injury. There are two ways to look at sports performance and injury: 1) You can react to overuse injuries with ice, anti inflammatory medications, braces, rest and surgeries or 2) You can prevent these injuries with the use of a device that makes your foot more efficient.

How are Sole Supports™ Different?
Most “custom” orthotics are made based on outdated theories that do not significantly change foot function and do not take into account the demands of the modern athlete. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, these orthotics usually end up as expensive soft cushions or hard-as-rock braces that are respectively either ineffective or too uncomfortable for aggressive use.